rises at Langley, flows through the village of Loose, and joins the Medway
at Tovil. It has the reputation for the highest concentration of
watermills in Kent. Watermill researcher Alan Stoyel provides an introduction to the mills of the Loose. There
follows a summary of the mill sites where the river's power was used.
These sites are arranged in order, from the source to where it discharges
into the river Medway, a distance of approximately 5½
Several streams in Kent were remarkable in their constant supplies of copious
water, flowing from a series of springs down valleys with steep gradients.
These attracted dense concentrations of watermills along their short lengths.
Many of the mill sites were of ancient foundation, but the volume and quality
of the water was particularly suited to papermaking. Perhaps the best examples
of such streams are the Loose, running into the river Medway on the edge of
Maidstone, and the Dour, which flows down to the sea at Dover. Each of these
had the added advantage of proximity to a large town, and to transport – by
both land and water.
Brishing Court Mill,
This was the first water-powered
site on the stream, but, even by 1936, nothing remained.
o’ Mutton Mill, Loose
So called from the shape of the
pond, this overshot mill closed in the early 19th century.. After this the
water from the pond was channelled to Upper Mill. The pond still remains.
Originally a fulling mill, then a
paper mill, its last use was for grinding corn, with three pairs of stones.
Later, the overshot waterwheel received extra power at breast level from Leg o’
Mutton Pond. In its latter days the water power was insufficient, and a
beam-engine worked in conjunction with the waterwheel. The mill closed in 1908
and has since been demolished. In the surviving wheelpit are two hydraulic
Mill or Gurney's Mill, Loose
Just upstream of the high-level
road bridge is the site of another paper mill. Also known as Gurney’s Mill, it
was demolished after the 1914-18 war, although the mill-house remains, together
with some footings of the mill. There is still a tiny pond, and the wheelpit
for a wide overshot waterwheel.
In the middle
of the village, fed by a large pond, is what must be an ancient mill site.
As far as is known, this has always
been a corn mill. Latterly, an overshot waterwheel drove three pairs of stones,
and this continued until about the First World War. Now little remains of the
mill, although the mill house is occupied, and water still falls into the
Ivy Mill, Loose
Traditionally this has been a paper
mill, although the present house, dated 1865, was converted in about 1912 from
the corn mill which superseded the papermaking. The overshot waterwheel and all
the machinery were scrapped, but the millpond has been restored.
Ivy Mill, Maidstone
This paper mill, like many others,
was once a fulling mill. It had a powerful overshot waterwheel, which was later
superseded by a turbine, but the iron pentrough from the wheel is still in
place. Some buildings of the complex remain, but papermaking here had ceased
before the First World War.
A fulling mill for much of its
life, this mill was converted to grinding corn by the middle of the 19th
century. Work ceased over a hundred years ago and the building was converted
into dwellings soon afterwards. Remarkably, the frame of the overshot
waterwheel is still in place beneath the mill, despite the alterations to the
of this paper mill complex has been converted to housing recently, it still
represents the most important survival in the valley. The buildings are
dominated by the long wooden paper-drying loft, and the core of the mill has
become a museum. Here can be seen the waterwheel, the beaters it drove, and
other historic machines and equipment. The internal waterwheel could be
operated as overshot or high breast, according to the level of water in the
The use of this mill, like so many
on this stream, has been varied, although it is now a private house. Until
about 1900 corn was ground here, but it had been a fulling mill. The most
recent task for the external overshot waterwheel was pumping water, which kept
it working into the 1960s, and the restored wheel can still turn.
Chrisbrook Mill, Maidstone
A corn mill, with four pairs of
stones, it was demolished in the early 1950s. Part of the base of the building
survives, and the stream still falls into the internal wheel-pit from the iron
trough which fed the overshot waterwheel. The mill worked until about 1905, and
the working parts were removed about thirty years later.
Here was a large paper mill of
ancient foundation, powered by a powerful overshot waterwheel. Following a
major fire in 1894 the premises were completely rebuilt, and steam power
superseded the waterwheel. The buildings were demolished, the stream
hidden in a culvert, and new houses built on the site in the 1980s.
Probably a fulling mill originally,
this became a paper mill. The large internal overshot waterwheel was scrapped
in 1941, although papermaking continued after the war. The buildings were
eventually demolished and the whole area has been redeveloped for housing.
Mill, Tovil, Maidstone
Here, just before the river Loose
runs into the Medway, was once an ancient fulling mill, but the site has been
used at various different times subsequently for producing flour, gunpowder,
oil and paper. It seems to have ceased work early in the 20th century, and the
site was eventually cleared for housing, leaving no trace of the mill.
INTERACTIVE MAP OF THE RIVER LOOSE showing the watermill sites.
Click on each watermill to find out more about it. (Please note: no information available for Brishing Court Mill)
Interactive map of the River Loose and its mills. Click on the map above for an enlarged version.
The watermills of the River Loose are listed below, arranged in order from source to mouth. Click on the hyperlinks to find items relating to each mill.
Find out about: Loose, Leg o' Mutton Mill
Find out about: Loose, Upper Mill
Find out about : Loose, Gurney's Mill
Find out about : Loose, Lower Mill
Find out about: Loose, Little Ivy Mill
Find out about: Maidstone, Great Ivy Mill
Find out about : Maidstone, Bockingford Mill
Find out about: Maidstone, Hayle Mill
Find out about : Maidstone, Upper Crisbrook Mill
Find out about : Maidstone, Lower Crisbrook Mill
Find out about : Maidstone, Upper Tovil Mill
Find out about : Maidstone, Lower Tovil Mill
Find out about : Maidstone, Tovil, Bridge Mill